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Baptists to expand Sandy DR into December

EDISON, N.J. (BP) — Southern Baptist Disaster Relief leaders are preparing to continue superstorm Sandy feeding efforts into December, and have opened a new avenue of service with long-term national implications.

“Although we’ve been told by New York officials that some of our kitchen operations may consolidate in the state, they told us to expect to continue providing meals into December,” said Fritz Wilson, North American Mission Board disaster relief executive director.

As of Nov. 11, Southern Baptists volunteers had served more than 670,000 meals to Sandy victims.

Volunteers are also providing leadership in a new rapid repair DR ministry method pioneered in response to Hurricane Isaac in Louisiana. NAMB DR team leader Mickey Caison helped forge the partnership for the rapid repair outreach.

“Volunteers from Tennessee are providing leadership and logistics for the rapid repair warehouse for the New Jersey response,” said Caison. “The warehouse opened today in Port Monmouth, N.J., at Middletown. At the request of FEMA and the [U.S. Army] Corps of Engineers, Southern Baptists have been asked to give leadership among responding entities for this part of the response.

“FEMA and the Corps have been watching Southern Baptists,” Caison said. “They have seen our capacity, both in our size, and in the manner and amount of work that we accomplish. They feel we can bring critical leadership to this task.”

Close to 900 SBDR volunteers from 27 states and Canada continued to provide ministry with shower trailers, mud-out and clean-up crews, and home repairs. Wilson is providing leadership from the New York and New Jersey incident command centers hosted by Raritan Valley Baptist Church in Edison, N.J. A second NAMB mobile incident command center is in transit to the church.

Missouri SBDR volunteers will man a second location in New York, Caison said. The warehouses are the central locations for construction supplies, such as roof tarps and lumber needed to make quick repairs to damaged homes. Caison said this opportunity could become a long-term ministry for Southern Baptists.

The Sandy response will also include childcare provided by SBDR volunteers, with units en route from Ohio and South Carolina. Planning continues to allow college students to use their holiday breaks to voluntarily serve in the affected areas.

Even when plans don’t work out, God can still use available volunteers in a DR response, Wilson said. For example, members of a Michigan team delayed while awaiting deployment at Fort Dix, N.J., used the time to build a relationship with a person at the base, eventually sharing the Gospel and seeing the person come to faith in Christ, Wilson said.

From its disaster operations center in Alpharetta, Ga., NAMB coordinates and manages Southern Baptist responses to major disasters through a partnership between NAMB and the Southern Baptist Convention’s 42 state conventions, most of which have their own state disaster relief programs.

SBDR assets include 82,000 trained volunteers, including chaplains, and some 1,550 mobile units for feeding, chainsaw, mud-out, command, communication, childcare, shower, laundry, water purification, repair/rebuild and power generation. SBDR is one of the three largest mobilizers of trained disaster relief volunteers in the United States, along with the American Red Cross and The Salvation Army.

Southern Baptists and others who want to donate to the disaster relief operations can contact their state conventions or contribute to NAMB’s disaster relief fund via
namb.net/disaster-relief-donations . Other ways to donate are to call 1-866-407-NAMB (6262) or mail checks to NAMB, P.O. Box 116543, Atlanta, GA 30368-6543. Designate checks for “Disaster Relief.”
Joe Conway writes for the North American Mission Board. Get Baptist Press headlines and breaking news on Twitter (@BaptistPress), Facebook (Facebook.com/BaptistPress ) and in your email ( baptistpress.com/SubscribeBP.asp).

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  • Joe Conway